St. Mary's Law Journal


Pleas to the jurisdiction have been part of Texas jurisprudence since shortly after Texas became a state. The resulting confusion over the procedure and standards to be employed in resolving a plea was partially alleviated by the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife v. Miranda. From a number of reports from Texas’s reviewing courts, however, it is evident the courts continue to struggle with the plea. Currently there are no established procedural rules to assist with the resolution of a plea to the jurisdiction. Thus, procedures vary from court to court and case to case. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 85 is the only rule which addresses a plea to the jurisdiction. In 1997 pleas to the jurisdiction were altered by the addition of section 51.014(a)(8) to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. This addition provides for interlocutory appeals from a grant or denial of a plea to the jurisdiction filed by a governmental unit. The dramatic increase in the use of pleas to the jurisdiction combined with a lack of procedures governing the resolution of the plea has created a hardship for both trial courts and practitioners. Cases involving sovereign immunity and purported waiver under the Texas Tort Claims Act are difficult to resolve without addressing the merits of the case. The stakes are high when the disposition of certain pleas can result in a dismissal with prejudice. Although existing procedures like summary judgment and special exceptions have been used in the past, they are inadequate. The Supreme Court of Texas should address the ongoing needs of the bench and bar and enact specific rules to govern pleas to the jurisdiction.


St. Mary's University School of Law